Dallas’ 5th Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial court and rendered judgment that the plaintiff take nothing in a $1 billion civil suit filed against the Dallas Observer that accused the alternative weekly newspaper of wrongfully disclosing the HIV-positive status of a person mentioned by name in an article.
The plaintiff sued the newspaper, its parent company, New Times Inc., and the author of the article, freelancer J.D. Sparks, after the publication ran a Dec. 4, 2003, article entitled “Fallen Angel.”
The focus of the article involved alleged fiscal mismanagement and rifts among former and current leaders at the Dallas Cathedral of Hope church, according to the 5th Court’s Jan. 26 opinion in New Times Inc., et al. v. John Doe. [In his petition, the plaintiff did not disclose his name.]
The article mentioned that a former director of administration at the church alleged that senior church leaders had asked her to add unpaid volunteers to the church’s insurance policy, including the plaintiff, who was HIV positive, even though only full-time paid employees were eligible, the 5th Court wrote.
The plaintiff sued the newspaper alleging the defendants violated §81.103 of the Texas Health & Safety Code, which forbids disclosures — without a patient’s written consent — of medical test results to other parties, except certain government health agencies, and provides for recovery of damages when such disclosures occur.